The Creating CoPOWERment® Workbook: Embracing the Power of Positive Psychology, Healing Stories and Explorations to Create the Life You Want encourages readers to explore choices, visualize outcomes, and set priorities. This workbook is informal and informative, never preachy. It provides readers with the shared true-life stories of past Creating CoPOWERment® clients and body-mind-spirit practitioners, balanced with the scientific results of positive psychology studies conducted over the past thirty years or more in the areas of optimism, self-compassion, goal-setting, meaningful work, and success. Thought-provoking, hands-on explorations at the end of each chapter support readers in discovering their motivations and ideals in planning step-by-step changes for better living.
• Discover what motivates you to use your strengths to create the life you want.
• Learn how your unexamined thoughts and beliefs hold you back from achieving your goals.
• Transform obstacles into lessons and markers of success.
• Align with like-minded-hearted-souled allies, organizations, and communities.
• Find out what your life purpose really is and step-by-step how to get there.
Creating CoPOWERment® is a phrase the author coined to describe the empowering interactions that take place when people who are going through life transitions come together in groups or partner one-on-one. People who have participated in Creating CoPOWERment® have reported that they are able to identify better life options when they have an opportunity to share their experiences, beliefs, and resources with others.
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The Creating CoPOWERment Workbook
Embracing the Power of Positive Psychology, Healing Stories and Explorations to Create the Life You Want
By Lani Kwon
Balboa PressCopyright © 2013 Lani Kwon, MA
All rights reserved.
Awareness and Inner Peace
He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.
In this day and age, it's difficult to find places of peace. We're surrounded by constant noise. Have you noticed that, even walking along the sidewalk, we're often bombarded by advertising or music deliberately broadcasting on loudspeakers? Commercials now run in what used to be public space. People shout into their cell phones, and there's no way to avoid unintentionally overhearing conversations. Our attention is diverted by multiple sensations. We may sometimes feel overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of modern life. However, it is possible, even in this boisterous chaos, to create moments of awareness and clarity, to create inner peace.
It begins with awareness.
When we are unconscious of our thoughts, feelings and, thus, our motivations, we are at the mercy of physical sensations, emotional impulses and unmindful reactivity. We cannot be present, much less still. We bounce from one thought, feeling or reaction to another. "Monkey mind" is what the Buddhists call this incessant hyperactivity. In this unrestful state of suffering, we misperceive our true selves and our place in the world. We misperceive others. It is only when we become the aware observer of all of our experiences—not the fluctuating feelings, thoughts or sensations—that we can be free. This discovery process requires moments of silence.
On the Value of Silence
Even a few minutes of silence per day can encourage a person to pay attention to his or her internal world. Each of us can carve out this time in such mundane moments as sitting at a stoplight or even while standing in line:
1) Turn off the radio and cell phone.
2) Take a deep breath and simply notice.
3) At the office, if possible, close the door and unplug the phone during breaks, just for a few minutes.
4) Stop multi-tasking. Focus on one thing at a time.
5) Go outside at lunchtime, walk or drive to a park or another peaceful location nearby.
Notice how these simple steps impact the rest of your day. In each moment we have an opportunity to make informed choices, rather than react out of habit. We can recognize our habitual ways of reacting, and then in the pause created by our awareness, we will have clarity about the right actions to take in the right time and in the right place.
Recently, I have noticed that much of my suffering is caused by inappropriate reactions to events, people or things around me. When I am aware of this, I am much more capable of mindful choices, rather than knee-jerk reactions. The ability to discern what is really happening, how people are really behaving or what something actually is allows me an opportunity to choose the right course of action, if any is required. I've discovered that simply noticing events, people and objects is enough. Sometimes I can just let things be as they are, instead of taking inappropriate action.
When I discovered meditation in my late twenties, it was a blessing. However, it was not easy at first. Even with the support of experienced teachers, meditation brought up painful feelings and thoughts I had repressed for many years. As a child I was molested and sexually assaulted by acquaintances of my parents. It was enough to terrify me, and it led to deeply ingrained feelings of shame in my adolescence and early adulthood. When I started meditating, I needed additional support to handle the painful reality I had long ago sought to bury. I was fortunate to have a partner, friends and counselors who helped me sort through the past, confirm that the present was worth living and that I could create a better future.
If meditation scares you, there may very well be a reason. If you find that you uncover frightened parts of yourself that have been dormant for a long time, I recommend you reach out for support from a trusted friend, family member, spouse, minister and/or counselor. Post-traumatic stress disorder can impact people years after a traumatic event has occurred. It is incredibly empowering to uncover your past and own it, all of it, even the painful parts of your life.
In Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman puts forward the groundbreaking idea of post-traumatic growth, writing:
A few years ago, Chris Peterson, Nansook Park, and I added a link to my Authentic Happiness website www. authentichappiness.org. The new questionnaire listed fifteen worst things that can happen in a person's life: torture, grave illness, death of a child, rape, imprisonment, and so on. In a month, 1,700 people reported at least one of these awful events, and they took our well-being tests as well. To our surprise, individuals who'd experienced one awful event had more intense strengths (and therefore higher well-being) than individuals who had none. Individuals who had been through two awful events were stronger than individuals who had one, and individuals who had three—raped, tortured and held captive for example—were stronger than those who had two.
Our traumas can actually enhance our strengths and lead us forward to better lives. We can harness awareness, ask for help and receive the support needed to make meaning of difficult experiences in our lives. It is important to understand that we did the best we could, considering the situation in the past, and also that we do not have to remain stuck in the past or hurt in the present. It is possible to take everything we encounter, even tragic and traumatic events, and to create a brighter and better future, using our strengths, resources and resilience.
Vipassana and Metta Meditation
There are many forms of meditation. Western variations include the silent reflection found in the Christian faith. The practice I have personally found to be helpful for awareness is the Buddhist practice called vipassana, or mindfulness meditation. In vipassana I notice myself breathing in and out. I notice how the breath feels on my lip or in my nostrils. Sometimes I count, "One. Two. Three. Four ...," the in-breath and out-breath and the pauses that occur before breathing in and breathing out. I become aware of my thoughts, physical sensations, feelings and anything else that is happening around me. I notice my reactions to external events, sounds and stimuli. I come back to my breath. I come back to the present moment, and I become aware of the observer Self who has awakened. I become awake to the other parts of myself that are habitually in control.
Another useful practice I have found is metta, or loving-kindness meditation. There are many variations of metta, but at the heart of all of them is the active practice of wishing yourself, those you love, those you like, those you feel neutral towards, those you dislike and those you may think you hate the same levels of peace, happiness and freedom from suffering. I expand my capacity for love and equanimity by practicing this meditation. I become aware that we all suffer and that we all want to be free from suffering. Vipassana allows for an opening of the consciousness, while metta allows for an opening of the heart. Both allow for awareness, clarity and realization of the Self.
Ironically, when I least have the time or inclination to meditate, I most need to do it. For example, as I write and edit this book, I have been struggling with some past memories that came up during meditation. I am upset by my current thoughts and feelings about them. Yet sifting through these recollections and reactions as they surface, allowing myself to feel and think and then to breathe through them, I found gold among the dirt and stones. I have been able to pick out these nuggets and polish them and share them in this book for what I hope is the benefit of others struggling with similar traumas in their lives.
In awareness we have choice, and with choice we have the potential for inner peace.
An Interview with a Practitioner of Body-Mind-Spirit Awareness Master Wasentha Young of Peaceful Dragon School www.peacefuldragonschool.com firstname.lastname@example.org
I was fortunate to know many adept practitioners, counselors and healers when I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am also grateful to call Master Wasentha Young, who is the owner and director of the Peaceful Dragon School of T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Chi Kung, a friend. In addition to training in T'ai Chi since 1968, she has a background in Taoist and Buddhist meditation, has earned certificates in Acupressure and as a Wellness Counselor in Mind-Body Consciousness, and holds a Master's degree in Transpersonal Studies from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in California. Wasentha is an African-American woman with a ready smile and a youthful beauty that belies her experience and wisdom. She is forthright in a way that some might find intimidating, but those who truly know her admire her and appreciate her wit. She is fascinated by the interconnections between body, mind and spirit. She is well versed in the study and practice of awareness.
When I interviewed her, we sat in my living room on a wintry evening in 2009, each with a hot mug of tea clasped in our hands to warm them. I began by asking what first interested her about becoming more aware.
She replied, "Someone once asked me, 'Can you imagine who we'd be if we used more of our brains?' It motivated me to open up my conscious awareness and become more present to the influences of the unconscious." In essence Wasentha was suggesting that awareness is an ongoing process and not an end result.
She explained, "In being present to the unconscious, I can feel a vibration of something like a distant drum, buzz or light. For me this awareness is being conscious of being unconscious, feeling the connection of everyday reality and the fabric of dream/unconscious costuming my awake state."
This was a lot of information to take in at first, and I could see she had given the topic of awareness a great deal of thought and consideration over the years. Wasentha was touching upon more than just being aware of thoughts, feelings, sensations and/or events or situations as they were in each moment. She was talking about delving deeper into the subconscious thoughts, unconscious motivations and reflex actions that create "reality," like the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz. She was talking about awareness of awareness.
Wasentha continued, "There is a tangible relationship you can connect between the conscious and the unconscious through awareness. In T'ai Chi and Chi Kung, which translates as 'energy work,' it starts as the physical body informing the mind; at a certain point in study, the mind informs the body, to developing the awareness of the continuous dialogue between mind, body and spirit. At this point the practice becomes sensual: physical, mental and spiritual."
I asked, "So the physical practice of T'ai Chi and Chi Kung are actually entryways to mental and spiritual awareness?" I was still trying to expand my consciousness and take in everything she was saying. She nodded, but as she did, I realized it was more than that. She was saying that there was an interrelationship between the physical, mental and spiritual and that each of these seemingly separate categories were interconnected.
"Many people call them physical forms of meditation that can be practiced regularly to achieve awareness. What advice do you have for those wanting to become more aware?" I asked, expecting her to advise practicing T'ai Chi or Chi Kung, but her response surprised me.
"I absolutely advocate nature as a vehicle to help with awareness."
"Yes, I have an exercise I share with students. I find a path at the edge of a woodsy or natural environment in nature. I bow to the path and say to myself, 'Nature becomes my consciousness.' From that point every step I take is an adventure into myself. What I see, hear, smell and even taste on the path becomes a reflection of my consciousness."
"The outward reflects the inward?" I asked, rhetorically, in order to help myself understand where she was going with this idea. "And vice versa?"
Wasentha elaborated, "Nature doesn't have a prescribed pattern. It can be reflective of different aspects of our consciousness. You can explore so many aspects of your states of being in this way. You can access awareness through the body, mind, and spirit as parts of the whole."
Her description of this process made me want to try it at a local park.
"I personally prefer embodied styles of meditations, but you can still reach awareness without having a particular practice," she said.
It was liberating to hear that there were many paths to becoming more aware and that different methods work for different people. Yet, this was the first time I had heard from anyone that people didn't need a particular practice in order to become more aware.
She continued, "There are so many styles of meditation."
I pondered this new angle in understanding awareness, and I took a deep breath and was aware of it.
"A lot of times, it has to do with perspectives." Wasentha said, "I tell my students the main components to awareness are: 'We relax down. We open up. We reflect. We change.' Awareness is not centered in the mind, body or spirit but rather in open relationships."
Wasentha concluded, getting up from her chair, "You will feel more vulnerable as you become more aware. Ironically, it is when we start becoming aware that we feel more." She paused and smiled slightly. "Know that there is strength in vulnerability and be aware of your filters. Trust in the intelligence of your awareness."
It was the first time someone had ever suggested that being more vulnerable was a sign of awakening and that vulnerability could be a strength. I thanked my friend, Wasentha, for this insight. She was saying that awareness meant feeling more. It was transcendent conversation for which I am grateful to share.
Inner Peace Explorations:
If you have 5 to 10 minutes, answer the following:
Do you allow yourself moments of silence and space to create it? How often?
What other ways do you cultivate awareness and clarity in your life? (e.g. martial arts, art, sports, prayer, etc ...)
Have there been moments when you've noticed your habitual reactions to people, events or things? How did you react? Are you able to go with the flow or pause before taking action?
Who in your life can support you in creating opportunities for more silence, awareness and clarity?
Is there anything that comes into your consciousness during meditation that is in need of healing? If so, what is it? What resources, people and practices can you cultivate to experience post-traumatic growth?
If you have more time:
Look into a form of meditation that interests you. You can try vipassana, metta or another technique. Or, if you prefer physical movement to stillness, try walking in nature, as Master Young suggested. Or, perhaps, you could try yoga or T'ai Chi or another martial art? You may wish to sign up for a class or buy or rent a CD or DVD for initial guidance in one of these forms. Or you can go into nature with the intention of being present and aware. I encourage you to stick with your chosen practice, form or activity for at least a full month. It may be uncomfortable or frustrating at first, but as you deepen your practice, you will begin to observe increased awareness and find precious insights. Write these down in a journal or record them. Polish these insights and allow your budding awareness to light your way.
Names Have Meanings. Words Have Power.
What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.
–William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet 2.1.85-86
What Meaning is in a Name?
What really is in a name? Is it really true that if someone were named Ichabod it would still sound as sweet as Nathaniel? How about what each one means? "Glory is gone" and "God has given," respectively. Most people in this day and age are unaware of what their names mean. Some may check a baby name book or online when selecting a name for their child but only glance at the meaning of their own names, if at all.
Excerpted from The Creating CoPOWERment Workbook by Lani Kwon. Copyright © 2013 Lani Kwon, MA. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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